All of us want to live happy, purposeful lives.
We want to be authentic and show up as our whole self with nothing to hide. We want to feel good about the person we see in the mirror; we want to be open and honest in our relationships; and we want to feel that we matter.
And, yet, life has a bad habit of not always going the way that we want and for dealing us inner conflicts and outer circumstances that can make it difficult to realize the life we know we are capable of living.
Distance = Suffering
The greater the distance between our inner self and the outer life that we are living the greater the suffering.
Individual therapy is about alleviating suffering by closing the gap between your inner self and outer life.
It is about becoming more authentic, first within the safety of your relationship with me, and then, incrementally, in your life and relationships beyond.
To become more authentic, more wholly oneself, we must be willing to talk about the “unsafe” aspects of our life that need talking about.
A safe place to talk about the “unsafe” parts of our life.
Sometimes we know the part of ourself or the period from our life that we need to address. Something horrible happened to us when we were children, perhaps, and our only way of dealing with it back then was to basically not deal with it at all.
This worked and it didn’t. On the one hand, it enabled us to function. And yet, on the other hand, it caused us to grow up feeling like we were double-agents. On the outside we looked like any other “normal” kid, but inside we didn’t feel normal at all. The secret we hid wasn’t benign and it took real energy and effort to keep it where no one would ever see it.
And yet, as the years passed, we became so accustomed to living this way that pretending became synonymous with who we knew ourself to be.
In effect, we forgot that we were wearing a disguise and mistook the mask we wore for our true self.
Over time, the distance between our inner self and the mask that we presented to the world grew increasingly wide and hard to sustain.
Some of us started to suffer from anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, etc. We fell behind in school or work life, or in our ability to show up for our family.
Some of us turned to drugs and alcohol or other risky behaviors to help manage the pain.
Unfortunately, these solutions didn’t solve our problem and we eventually ended up needing more and more of whatever in order to get that same feeling of relief.
For some, our using became addiction which then really made a mess of our life.
Hiding behind success.
Not all of us managed the pain we carried by turning to substances or risky behavior. Some of us went in the total opposite direction and channeled all of our inner turmoil into living exemplary lives of exceptional self-discipline and high achievement.
Our solution was to keep the chaos at a distance by never allowing it to catch up to us. We lived in a blur of nonstop activity, insistent that a prestigious job, the right amount of money, the right partner and social circle could dispel our demons and prove our worthiness once and for all.
For still others, there is no horrible childhood trauma to point to as the cause of our present-day difficulties. We came from a good family and grew up feeling safe and loved.
And, yet, here we still find ourself awash in anxiety, depression, loneliness, grief, etc.
How can that be?
No one to blame but myself.
One of the most common responses to personal struggle when we don’t have someone who can help us work through it is that we delegitimize it.
We tell ourself that what we are dealing with is nothing compared to what other people have to deal with and then we berate ourself for being weak, self-pitying, undisciplined, etc.
Inevitably, our solution is almost always that we need to “pull ourself up by our bootstraps” and, (sing it with me now), “just get over it.”
As a result of this attitude, our relationship to ourself tends to become one of perpetual self-criticism and denigration.
It doesn’t matter how successful we are or how much other people tell us they love, admire, or respect us. Their words can’t reach us because we have grown incapable of letting them in.
When we relate to ourself from a position of intolerance we tend to turn our life into a never-ending project of self-destruction or self-improvement.
In either case, our intention is to quiet the critical voice inside by either obliterating it or by overcoming it through success.
The hard truth is that most people will go to their graves imprisoned in such limiting beliefs about themselves rather than risk reaching out for help to escape the tyranny of their own, unforgiving, know-it-all, mind.
The myth of individual self-reliance.
Most of us are so steeped in the myth of individual self-reliance that it never even occurs to us to seek professional help. Our mind, quite literally, doesn’t think that way.
As a result, it often requires a significant personal crises to finally stop us in our tracks and force us to acknowledge that the way we have been living isn’t working, and that, like it or not, we are going to have to change.
Don’t wait for that to happen.
Cut yourself some slack, end the debate with yourself and just decide that the time has come for you to get some help.
You’re worth it.